Saturday, July 22, 2017

Current Harvard Oddness

It's summer.  And I'm now on sabbatical.  So perhaps I shouldn't care about strange Harvard politics goings-on, but I can't help it.

Here's the tl;dr version, which is already too long.  (What's the recursive form of tl;dr?)  Sometime back, the powers-that-be at Harvard decided that they didn't like the Harvard final clubs (Harvard's kind-of-like fraternities, "social clubs" that have been around for ages, but that are not in any official way affiliated with Harvard).  There's plenty of reason not to like them, but at least initially concerns about sexual assault seemed to be the motivating factor.  So the powers-that-be decided that if you belonged to some private single-sex organization, they would not let you be captain of a sports team, or be approved by Harvard for a Rhodes fellowship, or things like that.  A number of faculty -- perhaps most notably, Harry Lewis -- objected to this policy, on multiple grounds.  (Perhaps one large one is that there are many private single-sex organizations that are quite positive, and it seems odd to put all these organizations under the same blanket policy.)  So after it was clear that there was some significant faculty objections, for a bit it was temporarily shelved, and a new committee put in place to make recommendations.

Several weeks deep in the summer, the report comes out, suggesting policies even harsher and more draconian than the original plan.  And the reasons for this outcome, from the latest-breaking reporting, seem at least somewhat confused.

There's now two issues, seemingly only tangentially related, but that have come together here.  The first relates to the suggested policies themselves.  But the second relates to how Harvard is governed -- can these types of disciplinary regulations for the students come into being without a vote of the full faculty.  The first, rightly, gets more attention, but as a member of the faculty, the second is of significant importance to me, and relates to a historical trend of taking power (or at least trying to take power) away from the faculty that seems consistent since I've arrived at Harvard.

I could write pages and pages about this, but fortunately for me (and you), the Crimson and Harry Lewis already have.  So for those who care enough to find out more, here are links.  The most recent Crimson piece, Seven Votes, suggests there's more behind the latest report that is worth knowing about, and probably is as good a starting point as any.  All of Harry's posts are interesting, but perhaps the best are where Harry relays his remarks from faculty meetings -- they're great to read, but I admit, it's much more fun to watch him deliver them in person.

Crimson articles (that last week or so)

Key Events in Harvard's Social Groups Sanctions Policy
Faculty Committee Recommends Social Groups be 'Phased Out'
Social Group Ban Revives Faculty Concerns Over Governance
Seven Votes    **** [most recent, and controversial]

Harry's blog (chronological order, back to about November).

My remarks to the faculty in support of the nondiscrimination motion
Why History Matters
My remarks to the FAS meeting of December 6th, 2016
Further Q&A on the motion for the December 6th meeting
The State of the Debate
Withdrawing the motion
Guest post on nondiscrimination
Where the rubber meets the road
How it would probably work in practice
Professor Haig's motion against compelled oaths
More about the implementation
I know it's a dumb question but
This week's development in USGSO policy
Harvard's nondiscrimination policy
The new policy about social clubs
Further comments on the social club policy

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